1878 Turner Map of Sichuan and Yunnan, China and Tibet

Route Map of Captain W. J. Gill's Journey in Western China and Eastern Tibet. - Main View

1878 Turner Map of Sichuan and Yunnan, China and Tibet


Traces the 1877 expedition of British Army officer William John Gill.


Route Map of Captain W. J. Gill's Journey in Western China and Eastern Tibet.
  1878 (dated)     19.25 x 23.25 in (48.895 x 59.055 cm)     1 : 1774080


This is a scarce and important 1878 William John Turner map of western China and eastern Tibet tracing Captain William John Gill's 1877 expedition through the region.
A Closer Look
The map depicts the region from the Irrawaddy River to the Yangtze River and from northern Sichuan Province to Bhamo, Myanmar (Burma). A red line traces Gill's expedition route, which includes the month-long 400-mile circular journey north of Chengdu before his guide, William Mesny, arrived in Chengdu. Cities, towns, and mountain peaks and passes along the route are labeled and their elevations given. Two cross sections of Gill's route are situated in the lower right corner. Different colors are used to highlight the borders of Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet, Burma, and Assam, and rivers throughout the region are indicated by dashed lines.
William Gill
Captain William John Gill (September 10, 1843 - August 11, 1882) was an English explorer and British military officer born in Bangalore, India, who attended the Royal Military Academy and was commissioned in the Royal Engineers. He spent nine years with the Royal Engineers, mostly in Britain but spent eighteen months in India from September 1869 to March 1871. After inheriting a fortune from a distant relative, he chose to stay in the army and use his newfound wealth to pursue his love of exploration and travel while at the same time gathering intelligence for the British government. Over the course of his life Gill took part in expeditions to Persia, China and Eastern Tibet, the Balkans after the Russo-Turkish War, Afghanistan after the Second Anglo-Afghan War, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and Egypt. Gill died when his party was attacked by a group of Bedouins while in Egypt on August 10, 1882.
Gill's 1877 Expedition to Western China and Eastern Tibet
Gill set off from Shanghai on January 23, 1877, with Edward Colborne Baber (April 30, 1843 - June 16, 1890), the British representative at Chongqing. These two parted ways after reaching Chongqing, and Gill continued to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, where he was going to meet his guide and companion for the rest of the expedition William Mesny (1842 - December 11, 1919). Mesny, a Jersey-born Briton, was not scheduled to arrive in Chengdu for several weeks, so Gill set out on a month-long 400-mile circular journey through the mountains of northern Sichuan Province, becoming the first European to travel through this part of the world. Gill arrived back in Chengdu shortly before Mesny. The pair left Chengdu on July 10, 1877, on a different route than originally planned due to a strained political situation between Russia and Great Britain. Gill and Mesny instead decided to travel via eastern Tibet to northern Burma (Myanmar), and Gill surveyed their route through Tibet until they reached Dali City (Talifu), the western capital of Yunnan Province. Their route after leaving Dali City, however, was known territory, as Edward Colborne Baber had already surveyed the territory between Dali City and the Irrawaddy River. On November 1, 1877, Gill and Mesny reached Bhamo on the Irrawaddy River, from which they continued down the Irrawaddy to Rangoon and then on to Calcutta by sea, where the party disbanded.
Publication History and Census
This map was drawn by William John Turner, engraved by Edward Weller, and published in Volume 48 of The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society. We note two examples cataloged in OCLC which are part of the collections at Indiana University and the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. We are also aware of an example in the collection at Princeton University. No examples on the private market are recorded.


William John Turner (fl. c. 1876 - 1892) was an English cartographer and geographer who operated in London during the late 19th century. Turner was officially employed by the Royal Geographical Society as a cartographer beginning on November 15, 1873 and accepted the post of 'Map Draughtsman and Assistant Curator' on June 29, 1877. Also in 1877, Turner began advocating for the 'in-house' creation of all maps published in the 'Journal of the Royal Geographical Society'. In May 1878, acting on his advice, Turner was given the post of 'Chief Draughtsman' for in-house cartography. Turner left the Royal Geographical Society in 1881 to work for A.K. Johnston. Turner left the Johnston firm in December 1886, and, after a time, was employed by the Royal Geographical Society from May 1887 until May 1889 'construction wall maps etc.' and 'contoured maps'. Later he partnered with W. Shaweto found 'Turner and Shawe', lithographers working for the RGS. The 'Turner and Shawe' imprint was active until at least 1904. More by this mapmaker...

Edward Weller (July 1, 1819 - 1884) was a cartographer and engraver based in London. Weller was a nephew of another well-known map publisher Sidney Hall (1788 - 1831), who gave him 50 Pounds to pay his apprenticeship fees. He engraved for many prominent mapmakers and was active enough in the community to be recommended for membership to the Royal Geographical Society in 1851 on the recommendation of John Arrowsmith, among others. He eventually inherited the Sidney Hall map business which led him to follow Arrowsmith as the unofficial geographer to the Royal Geographical Society. Weller was among the first map printers in London to embrace lithography. His best known work appears in Cassell's Weekly Dispatch Atlas, published in monthly segments for subscribers of the 'Weekly Dispatch' newspaper. This collection of maps eventually grew to include much of the known world. Published in various editions from 1855 through the early 1880s. Weller died in May of 1884, leaving behind a successful business and an unhappy widow. His son, Francis Sidney Weller (1849 - 1910), followed in his father's footsteps and continued the family map business. The atlas Mackenzie's Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales was published in 1894 and bore F. S. Weller's signature on the maps. Learn More...

Royal Geographical Society (fl. 1830 - present) is a British Society established in 1830 to promote geographical science and exploration. Originally titled the "Geographical Society of London", the RGS received its royal charter from Queen Victoria in 1859 shortly after absorbing several similar but more regional societies including the African Association, the Raleigh Club and the Palestine Association. The RGS sponsored many of the most important and exciting voyages of exploration ever undertaken, including the exploration of Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Robert Falcon Scott, Richard F. Burton, John Speke, George Hayward, H. M Stanley, Ernest Shackleton and Sir Edmond Hillary. Today, the RGS remains a leading global sponsor of geographical and scientific studies. The Society is based in Lowther Lodge, South Kensington, London. Learn More...


Gill, W.J., 'Travels in Western China and on the Eastern Borders of Tibet.', The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. 48, (London: John Murray) 1878.    


Good. Backed on archival tissue for stability. Wear and toning along original fold lines. Areas of infill along fold lines and at fold intersections. Blank on verso.


Harvard University Bulletin, Volumes 4-5, 'Classified Index to the Maps Contained in the Publications of the Royal Geographical Society', #318. OCLC 41378821.